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Opal is a contactless smartcard ticketing system being rolled out for public transport services in the greater Sydney area. The Opal card was officially launched as a trial in December 2012, beginning available for use on selected ferry services, with the card due to be fully rolled out by 2015. It will eventually be valid on all bus, rail, light rail and government ferry services in the Sydney, Central Coast, Hunter Region, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Illawarra areas. Currently the card is available on all state rail lines, all ferries and selected bus services.

HistoryEdit

Previous systemsEdit

Sydney has used a number of automated ticketing systems since the opening of the Eastern Suburbs Railway in June 1979. The current Sydney Automated Fare Collection System (AFC) was rolled out across all CityRail, Sydney Buses, Western Sydney Buses, Sydney Ferries and Newcastle Buses & Ferries services between 1988 and 1993. The system featured loose integration between the different modes of transport, a complex fare structure and excluded private operators.

A unified brand for the majority of public transport tickets was introduced in April 2010. MyZone was designed to simplify the fare system and remove one of the stumbling blocks to the introduction of a smart card. The AFC system was retained where it was in use, but tickets could also be used on private buses - and subsequently on the Metro Light Rail - by presenting a ticket to the driver or conductor.

TcardEdit

A replacement for the AFC based on smart card technology, named Tcard, was first announced by the Government of New South Wales in 1996, with the aim of having a system in place before the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The contract was awarded to ERG Group, but was delayed until 2002 due to a lawsuit from the losing bidder Cubic Transportation Systems, which was labelled 'dishonest' by the presiding Supreme Court of NSW judge.

The development and rollout of the system was beset with difficulties, leading the Government to terminate the contract in November 2007. The government sued ERG for $77 million who counter sued for $215m. The claim was settled in February 2012.

RevivalEdit

In July 2008, only months after terminating the Tcard contract, it was revealed that the smartcard system project had been revived by the government.

In August 2008 the NSW Government called for expressions of interest for the second attempt at the project, open to other Smart Card providers. In April 2010 the NSW Government awarded the contract to the Pearl Consortium, whose members are the Commonwealth Bank, Cubic Transportation Systems and Downer EDi. The system will also replace the various ticket machines used by private bus operators.

In September 2011 the new name for the system was announced as 'Opal', chosen from a selection of 665 names. Transport for New South Wales said Opal was chosen because it was 'uniquely Australian', short, and easy to say. As well as the opal being Australia's national gemstone, the black opal is the New South Wales gemstone symbol.

RolloutEdit

The first stage of the Opal card rollout commenced on 7 December 2012 as a trial on the Neutral Bay to Circular Quay ferry service followed by the Manly to Circular Quay service on 8 April 2013. Opal will be available on all ferry services by the end of 2013. From 14 June 2013 it was able to be used on train services on the City Circle and Eastern Suburbs lines. From 11 April 2014, it will be on all train services

The opal card is available as of April 11, on the:

Card TypesEdit

There will be five different Opal card fare types, each with their own easily identifiable colour; Adult (black, representing the black opal which is NSW’s official gemstone), Concession (silver), Senior/Pensioner (gold), Child/Youth (green) and Student (blue). Non-reloadable Opal cards will be introduced at a future date.

GalleryEdit

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